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I have the following sentences:

  1. The software is from an enterprise vendor.
  2. The software is from a vendor that serves enterprises.
  3. The software is from a vendor which serves enterprises.
  4. The software is from a vendor that also serves enterprises.

I'd like to know which of them is true for the vendor Mozilla and the software Firefox, under the assumption that Mozilla Firefox is used both in enterprises and by home users.

My intuition: (4) is obviously true. (3) might be true. But (1) and (2) are not.

When I expand the noun adjunct "enterprise vendor" in (1) I get (2), where the 'that' is restrictive: it distinguishes vendors that serve enterprises from--the implicit complement set--vendors that don't serve enterprises. Mozilla, which serves both, therefore, doesn't make (2) true.

I'm not sure about (3). If I need a comma to make 'which' non-restrictive. Whether the comma-less 'which' is less restrictive than 'that'. Or whether (3) is valid at all.

Is my intuition wrong? Is the adjunct noun commonly understood as the defining adjective for the noun it qualifies? e.g., is it odd using 'coffee shop' to refer to a large bookstore that also sells coffee? Finally, how do I rephrase (1) succinctly for it to apply to Mozilla Firefox unambiguously?

1

I think you are over-thinking this slightly. And there a couple assumption you are making that aren't necessarily true.

enterprise vendor

This does not necessarily refer to a vendor that serves enterprises. It could also describe a vendor that is an enterprise. Or, it could also describe a vendor that vends enterprises.

that vs which

You misunderstand the meaning of "restrictive" in this context. "Restrictive" simply means that it is information essential to the context of the sentence, not that it restricts the meaning.

In the case of "a vendor that serves enterprises", the information about "serving enterprises" is essential information to the integrity of the sentence, not a limit on what the vendor does. "A vendor that serves enterprises can also serve home users" is both grammatically and factually accurate.

In (2), you are, in effect, saying that the vendor serving enterprises is key. On the other hand, in (3), you are simply providing more information about the vendor. (NB, you need the comma.) Which indicates that the information about serving enterprises is simply an add-on. You could have just as easily said "The software is from a vendor, which has a cat logo." Your goal, with such a sentence, is to convey the essential fact that the software is from a vendor, and provide an add-on fact that the vendor also has a cat logo.

Is the adjunct noun commonly understood as the defining adjective for the noun it qualifies? e.g., is it odd using 'coffee shop' to refer to a large bookstore that also sells coffee?

In a word, yes, your intuition is wrong. Referring to a large bookstore as a "coffee shop" would not be wrong. It might not be clear, but it wouldn't be wrong. And, in fact, it can be used to good effect to emphasize the "coffee shop" nature of the bookstore (or, for example, as commentary on how useless bookstores are today for actually buying books, and are instead just coffee hangouts).

Finally, how do I rephrase (1) succinctly for it to apply to Mozilla Firefox unambiguously?

There's really only one way to be completely unambiguous. You can lean on context and expected definitions to make a more concise statement relatively unambiguous, but that can't always be counted on. Like I said before, "enterprise vendor" can actually mean a litany of things.

Oh, and the one way to be unambiguous? "Firefox is from Mozilla." Done and done.

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